November is National Alzheimer’s Month. REAL Services is northern Indiana’s resource for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their caregivers. Find a REAL Services office near you today.
When a person suspects they or someone they love has Alzheimer’s, a trip to the doctor should be the top priority.
After all, there are 120 different health conditions that mimic dementia, including simple urinary tract infections. Temporary struggles with memory could be cured with a simple medication.
If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s disease, the sooner a person and their family knows, the sooner they can begin preparing for what’s to come. Medications and brain-stimulating, task-oriented activities can sometimes slow the disease, giving a patient more time with their loved ones. It can also give a patient and their family peace of mind.
Here are some tips and things to expect when going to the doctor for memory-related issues.
Take a full list of medications and a complete family medical history
A primary care provider likely knows the prescriptions their patient is taking, but make sure to include specific doses of vitamins and over-the-counter medications like aspirin as well.
Write out a list of symptoms
Be specific about the symptoms and how often they occur. For example, instead of “struggles to remember things,” note that the affected person “got lost on the way home from work three times in the last month.”
Be prepared for lots of questions and tests
Before a doctor can make an accurate Alzheimer’s diagnosis, those 120+ other conditions must be ruled out. A doctor will ask about medical social and psychiatric history and possibly schedule medical tests like CT scans and blood tests. Doctors may also test a patient’s ability to perform basic mental tasks, like planning their daily medication or listing ingredients for a commonly-cooked dish.
Family members or caregivers may be interviewed
While patients should always be 100 percent honest with their doctors, sometimes patients experiencing memory issues may not remember correct answers or may lie out of fear or embarrassment. Close family members, friends or caregivers may be interviewed about symptoms they’ve witnessed.
You can always get a second opinion
If a doctor thinks the memory issues were caused by something else but symptoms aren’t improving with treatment or if you just want to be certain, it’s always OK to get a second opinion. A patient and their loved ones may want to see a specialist like a neurologist or a neuropsychologist who specializes in dementia issues for a more solid opinion.